Acoma Pueblo (Sky City), Native American reservation atop mesa near Albuquerque, New Mexico.

7 Must-See Historic Towns in New Mexico

New Mexico holds a very old, and better yet, interesting, place in the history of the United States. For example, did you know that Santa Fe, founded in 1610, is the second oldest continually inhabited (by European settlers) American town, only preceded by Saint Augustine, Florida (founded in 1565)? Who would've known that a state so far inland would have such a storied past?

Let us look at seven towns in New Mexico that best exemplify the "Land of Enchantment's" fascinating past. Discover numerous cultural, historical, and natural landmarks that make this southwestern state a true gem for any history buff exploring the area.

Acoma Pueblo

Acoma Pueblo (Sky City), Native American reservation atop mesa near Albuquerque, New Mexico
Acoma Pueblo (Sky City), Native American reservation atop Mesa near Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Perched atop a sheer sandstone mesa and resembling more of a fortified castle than a town, Acoma Pueblo, also known as "Sky City," is one of North America's oldest and most unique communities. Its history dates back over a thousand years, with its distinctive adobe buildings showcasing centuries of Puebloan architecture and culture.

A guided tour of the pueblo can offer insight into its inhabitants' traditions and daily life, who maintain a strong connection to their ancestral lands. Explore the San Esteban del Rey Mission, a Spanish colonial church built in the 17th century, and marvel at the breathtaking views of the surrounding desert. The Acoma Cultural Center provides further immersion into Acoma heritage through exhibits, demonstrations, and artisanal crafts. Visiting Acoma Pueblo offers a rare opportunity to experience the enduring spirit of a people whose roots run deep in the often hostile terrain of New Mexico.


Ancient dwellings of UNESCO World Heritage Site named Taos Pueblo in New Mexico.
Ancient dwellings of UNESCO World Heritage Site named Taos Pueblo in New Mexico.

Resting at the southern end of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Taos is also renowned for its adobe buildings, cultural diversity, and breathtaking natural beauty. The Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been continuously inhabited for over a millennium, offering a glimpse into the Native American history and culture of this arid and high-altitude region (sitting at a lofty 6,474 feet). Nearby, the Kit Carson Home and Museum preserves the legacy of the legendary frontiersman.

Taos, like Santa Fe, also attracted artists like Georgia O'Keeffe and Ansel Adams, who were drawn to its epic landscapes and budding artistic community. Explore the historic Taos Plaza, which is full of galleries, local restaurants where you can try traditional New Mexican cuisine, and hotels to rest your head at night.

For outdoor adventurers, Taos offers world-class skiing in the winter and hiking, fishing, and rafting opportunities close by in the warmer months.

Las Vegas

Overlooking Las Vegas, New Mexico.
Overlooking Las Vegas, New Mexico.

Not to be confused with its more famous counterpart in Nevada, Las Vegas, New Mexico, provides a wealth of history and architectural beauty instead of gambling and regret. Founded in 1835, it became a busy frontier town along the Santa Fe Trail, attracting traders, settlers, and, of course outlaws too.

Make a point to see the Victorian-era architecture downtown, with over 900 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visit the Montezuma Castle, once a luxurious resort frequented by the elite in the late 19th century. The Plaza Park, surrounded by historic buildings, hosts festivals and events throughout the year. Don't miss the CastaƱeda Hotel, a Harvey House establishment known for its role in the development of the American West.


Lincoln Historic Site, New Mexico.
Lincoln Historic Site, New Mexico.

Step back in time to the days of the Wild West in Lincoln, a small town with a history infamous for its connection to the outlaw Billy the Kid. The Lincoln Historic Site preserves numerous buildings from the time of "The Kid," including the courthouse where he made his daring escape from the law. Explore the Tunstall Store, where the territorial Lincoln County War erupted, shaping the town's turbulent history. The San Juan Mission Church, dating back to 1887, offers insight into the region's Hispanic heritage.

Lincoln's Main Street takes visitors to the days of cattle drives and gunfights, with old adobe structures lining the thoroughfare. Enjoy a meal at the historic Wortley Hotel, once frequented by outlaws and lawmen alike.


A mariachi band playing in Mesilla, New Mexico town square. Editorial credit: Grossinger /
A mariachi band playing in Mesilla, New Mexico town square. Editorial credit: Grossinger /

Located in the fertile Mesilla Valley, Mesilla charms all with its many adobe buildings, streets lined with old-growth trees, and standout cultural activities. Once part of Mexico, it played a significant role in the region's history, including the Gadsden Purchase of 1854.

Walk through the Mesilla Plaza, which is surrounded by preserved historic buildings like the Basilica of San Albino, a striking example of New Mexican adobe architecture. The Gadsden Museum goes into the town's past, showing off artifacts and exhibits related to its Mexican and American heritage. Mesilla Avenue offers an array of shops, galleries, and restaurants where visitors can sample tasty New Mexican cuisine.

Definitely pay the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park a visit. It is a fantastic spot for birdwatching and other outdoorsy things along the Rio Grande.

Silver City

Silver City, New Mexico, US. Image credit Underawesternsky via
Silver City, New Mexico, US. Image credit Underawesternsky via

Tucked away in the mountains of southwestern New Mexico, Silver City, once known only for mining...silver, now has a booming arts community. Founded in the 1870s, following the discovery of silver in the area, it quickly became a booming mining town.

The town center features well-preserved Victorian buildings, including the iconic Big Ditch Park, once a busy thoroughfare for ore wagons. Explore the Silver City Museum, housed in a former mansion, which chronicles the town's mining heritage and cultural evolution.

Art studios dot the downtown area, showcasing the works of local artists inspired by the region's storied past natural beauty. Also, enjoy a stroll along Bullard Street, with its many stores and restaurants offering classic southwestern eats.


Socorro County Courthouse, 200 Church Street, Socorro, New Mexico.
Socorro County Courthouse, 200 Church Street, Socorro, New Mexico.

Deep within the sweeping Rio Grande Valley, Socorro is a hotspot for outdoor recreation along with modern amenities to rest up for your adventure. Founded all the way back in 1598, it's one of the oldest settlements in New Mexico, with a heritage that spans Native American, Spanish colonial, and eventually Anglo-American cultures.

Like many towns in New Mexico, the historic Plaza is the heart of the town and is surrounded by adobe buildings dating back centuries. Visit the local San Miguel Church, another one of the oldest churches in the United States, and the nearby El Camino Real Historic Trail Site, where travelers follow the ancient trade route.

Socorro's proximity to natural wonders like the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge makes it a haven for birdwatching and outdoor enthusiasts. Explore the town's shops and art galleries, where you can find locally crafted pottery, jewelry, and textiles.

New Mexico's historic towns offer you a journey through the diverse landscape of the American Southwest. From the adobe structures of Santa Fe to the Wild West legends of Lincoln, each destination showcases its own blend of history, culture, and natural beauty that just has to be seen to be believed. Whether exploring ancient Pueblo sites, wandering through Victorian-era streets, or savoring traditional cuisine, visitors are sure to be enchanted by the timeless charm of these places.

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